/ Shopping, Sustainability

Is it time to go glitter-free in 2019?

There’s been growing concern this year about glitter and its effect on the environment. Is it time phase out the sparkly microplastic?

Following on from carrier bags, water bottles, straw and microbeads, glitter has recently started drawing the attention of those concerned about plastic waste and pollution.

The shiny specks that adorn Christmas decorations, children’s products and beauty and fashion items are made of tiny shards of plastic, which, when discarded, can end up in rivers and the sea – contaminating the water and poisoning sea life.

In January, the government banned the use of microbeads in cosmetics – tiny plastic particles in a variety of beauty products – but the sale of glitter by itself and its use in a variety of non-cosmetics products seemingly slipped through the net.

Glitter trouble

However, some are already responding to the concerns over glitter.

Just before Christmas, Waitrose announced it would be removing glitter from its own product lines by 2020.

In August, more than 60 music festivals announced they were banning glitter (along with all other single-use plastic) from their sites in three years time.

And last year a chain of nurseries announced they would be banning the use of glitter as an art material.

Plastic drastic

According to Greenpeace, 12.7 million tonnes of plastic are being dumped in the world’s oceans every year.

The UN estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of waste plastic per square mile of sea – and that the material is now part of the food chain in our oceans.

It seems whatever way you look at it, plastic waste is ending up in our oceans, in marine life and, ultimately, inside of us (if we eat fish).

Glitter bitter?

Although banning glitter might seem like a rather small step – or even a kill-joy sort of thing to do – it could be a step in the right direction.

There are already plastic-free alternatives to glitter made from cellulose, so it’s not even a very hard transition to make for those who want to keep some sparkle in their life.

Every small victory against plastic pollution, such as microbeads, raises public awareness and empowers people to demand further action – and encourages manufacturers and retailers to develop alternatives.

I’m all in favour of outlawing plastic glitter – there are alternatives available, so it wouldn’t even be disruptive to consumers who want to continue wearing it – but what do you think?

Is too little too late in taking action on plastic pollution? Or perhaps you think consumers should be left to decide on plastic at the checkout, rather than the government banning it outright?


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One of the problems with celluloid is that it is far more flammable than other plastics.

In an odd documentary programme on BBC 4 yesterday I noticed that the shades on the table lights on the dining tables in the Pullman saloon cars of the electric Brighton Belle train [1933-72] were made of pink celluloid. In view of its flammability it’s a strange choice for a light fitting, but I have never heard of any fires.

I presume Perspex [and other similar materials] eventually substituted for celluloid as a safer and shatter-proof alternative.

In these days about the only alternative would be glass. Flammable materials don’t go on fire unless there is a source of ignition.

It’s a good question! I love glitter, it’s so pretty and tiny – even if it a nightmare to get out of clothes… but it is not an essential need.

Just like the debate with straws, I think we need to consider what we need to have and what we would like to have. As many of you will know, I relied on straws a lot because of my sensitive teeth, but recently I have been enjoying drinks without one. I think, ultimately, saving the planet (yes one straw at a time!) is more important than my teeth. And I have actually noticed that my teeth have become less intolerant to the cold – numb to the pain?

So, yes I think we should either get rid of glitter or find alternatives.

At this time a year, most of us will have some Christmas cards decorated with glitter. I put these ones in the non-recyclable waste.

I’m going to a party tonight that I expect will have a lot of glitter – wonder if it will be biodegradable!

As well as being bad for the planet, trying to clean up glitter from your house is always a pain.

True, but I wonder if we’re not getting things out of proportion? The figures for GTPI (glitter tonnes per individual) are not easily found, but the figures for air pollution in UK cities are, as are the figures and estimates for hospitalisations, possible premature deaths, serious lung conditions and incidence rate of NO2 contamination. Air pollution in the UK is a major cause of diseases such as asthma, lung disease, stroke, and heart disease, and is estimated to cause forty thousand premature deaths each year, which is about 8.3% of deaths, while costing around £40 billion each year.

It may well be fashionable to discuss the dangers of glittery Christmas cards but I suggest the causes of air pollution are far more imminent, serious and of potential concern.

Susanne says:
31 December 2018

Ban it, it’s a completely unnecessary thing.

If there are environmentally safe alternatives to plastic glitter then why not ban the use of plastics that don’t degrade easily? Until that happens the manufacturers could voluntarily switch to the alternatives.

We have a far more severe problem with plastics in general, and particularly in packaging where it is used unnecessarily, where it is used excessively, and where the plastics are not suitable for recycling. A number of recent Convos have looked at this and provided many practical suggestions to drastically reduce the use of plastics.

But what have these conversations achieved? No one seems to pull the suggestions together and propose a future way forward, something that could be taken to government with a campaign for action. Instead we produce yet another Convo on a relatively trivial aspect of possible plastic misuse.

I would hope 2019 might see important issues like this now being taken forward actively by Which? and not just left to languish in a chat room.

Absolutely, we need to take this forward actively, please, Which!

“Is too little too late in taking action on plastic pollution?” – Defeatism never achieved much, so, no.

“Or perhaps you think consumers should be left to decide on plastic at the checkout, rather than the government banning it outright?” – We are left to decide on plastic at the checkout right now and we are deciding to use far too much plastic, so I would suggest again that the answer is no.

David says:
5 January 2019

“Specs” is an abbreviation of “specifications” or possibly “spectacles”. Do you mean “specks”? (Grammar police here). And yes, glitter should be banned. Christmas cards and other greeting cards shed them everywhere and a few of these annoying particles can often be seen all over the house months later. And they’re not recyclable,so the cards can’t go in the paper & cardboard waste collection.

Sean says:
5 January 2019

As far as Christmas cards go, it’s only the bits with glitter on that can’t be recycled – most of them still can be.

Today, coincidentally, I saw a teenage girl in a sweater bearing the message “All you need is glitter.” This is the kind of message we need to overcome.

Shugg says:
7 January 2019

What gets me is the pathetic attitude of shops like Morrisons who say they’ve replaced plastic bags with paper and then put all their fruit and veg in non-recyclable plastic boxes! They’re just conning people into thinking they give a proverbial.